In the months leading up to the start of my first adult job I spent wayyyy too much money on clothes because I didn’t know what to buy. The only guidance that my consulting company provided was that most of the time employees wear business casual, but sometimes business formal, and sometimes even jeans. With such vague guidelines I ended up with a ton of clothes, some of which were perfect and others that totally missed the mark. That was 2 years ago, so I am now able to look back and identify the 5 essentials that will get you through any situation or dress code!
1. THE SUIT
Your first work wardrobe purchase should be a suit, it can be navy or black, and a skirt suit or pant suit (although I recommend a skirt suit). This is such an important item because you never know when you’re going to need it, and its not something you do not want to buy frantically at 9pm as the mall is closing because your boss told you to wear a suit the next day.
My first suit was a black skirt suit from Banana Republic, purchased for me by my dad (thanks dad!). In addition to Banana, J. Crew and Ann Taylor also have great classic suits.
2. THE BUTTON UP
A button up shirt is a classic for a reason and is great for layering. I rarely wear a button up on its own, I always wear it under a sweater for a more put together look. The only button up shirts that I buy are the no iron ones from Brooks Brothers. They are basically magic and somehow never get wrinkled. It is also sold in a sleeveless style that is perfect for the summertime or layering under a sweater.
First of all, I am the biggest advocate of sweater sets. They are so professional, comfortable, and versatile. I love wearing them together, just the shell over a long sleeved button up shirt, or just the cardigan over a blouse. I love J. Crew’s Jackie sweater set in both cotton and wool, and they are always coming out with new colors and patterns.
I also recommend the J. Crew Tippi sweater. I think you can wear it with literally anything. And again, it comes in some of the cutest colors.
4. A BLAZER
To start off I would buy one “fun” blazer (different from your suit blazer). Blazers are wonderful because they can make basically any outfit look more professional. Try to pick a color that will go with all basic colored bottoms (black, navy, and grey), and is a year round fabric (I avoid linen blazers at all costs). I chose a camel colored J. Crew blazer and still get so much use out of it. Below are some examples of blazers that I think could mix well with any other basic pieces.
This is the easy part, almost every store sells some version of a skinny cropped work pant. I like this style because it’s cropped so you can wear it with any shoe without worrying if your pants are the right length. I bought a few pairs in neutral colors before starting my job and they are perfect for mixing and matching. I got mine from J. Crew, but there are a ton of options out there.